Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Channel 4 exclusive - it's all our fault

Shame on you if you foolishly thought we were living through the aftermath of a recession which had its origins in the (private) financial services sector and with a Public Sector Borrowing Requirement massively enlarged by consequent reductions in tax revenues.

Channel 4 News - in a masterpiece of lazy and shoddy journalism has now revealed that it's all the fault of local government workers (http://www.channel4.com/news/council-spending-revealed-ahead-of-cuts).

Apparently we take more time off sick than the average private sector worker. The "cost" of this absence can be calculated in order to bash local government workers (a bloodsport that is always in season) - but this "cost" is meaningless since a marginal additional cost only arises where additional staff are taken on to cover for sickness absence, as happens only in a minority of cases of long term sickness.

Otherwise there is no financial cost - although of course there is a (non-financial) impact on service provision and (more importantly) an additional burden on those of us who aren't off sick to pick up as much of the work of those who are as we can manage.

One major factor in higher sickness absence in local government than the private sector average is the different profile of the workforce in terms of jobs. There is almost an epidemic of work related stress in some parts of the local government workforce. I would happily invite the "consultant" (which means overpaid layabout) who told Channel 4 that we can easily reduce sickness absence in local government to spend a week working alongside some of our front line workers (and living on the same salary) and see if they can hack it.

Another factor will be that we have civilised sick pay provisions, whilst for many non-unionised private sector workers a bout of 'flu' can mean trouble paying the bills next month.

I think the problem isn't really that local government workers take too much time off sick but that private sector workers take too little.

We should work to live, not live to work and to drag oneself into work when unwell for fear of losing money or upsetting the boss should be a source of shame, not pride.

I think the Channel 4 "journalist" who worked on this story may need a better attitude to their own sickness absence. They must have been so unwell when they reported on the increase in local government expenditure over the past decade that they forgot to take account of inflation, and of the consequent difference between current prices and constant prices...

I'll stick to BBC News from now on.

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